To hear Jerry Auchstetter tell it, John Barton was a champion of the underdog.
Auchstetter, Geneva's retired hall of fame football coach, didn't detail too much of the late Mr. Barton's achievements as his first defensive assistant in 1967, fresh out of Southern Illinois University, helping the Vikings abruptly turn into a state power. Or as the varsity boys basketball coach who led Geneva to a sectional final his first year heading the program, 1980-81.
"As far as the athletes were concerned, he was an inspiration," Auchstetter said. "They trusted him to no end, his players."
Only a faulty line of questioning contained Auchstetter from fully pontificating on the athletic leadership of Barton, who also served Geneva in the golf, baseball and track programs.
On the other hand the two men taught together 27 years in Geneva's physical education department. That daily interaction, on top of the practice time and those football weekends shared on Burgess Field, is what cemented the bond between Auchstetter and Barton, who died of colon cancer on Aug. 3, 2012.
Auchstetter recalled one situation where Barton transformed a student labeled as a "problem" into an interested participant. The boy morphed from a malcontent who never even dressed for gym class to a student who through Barton's patience and consideration not only ran that mile like everyone else but then grabbed the clipboard to record other students' times.
"This was something I never thought I'd see. This was something that no other teacher was able to do. John could do it," said Auchstetter, who with his wife, Linda, lives in a house in North Aurora that's about five minutes within all of their nine grandchildren.
"John touched a lot of lives," Auchstetter continued. "I think the thing that impressed me the most about him was he was a very caring individual. He had an extensive understanding of students that had a troubled past. He was able to reach out to them and accept them for who they were. They trusted him because he was so legitimate and sincere.
"He was able to turn a lot of lives around, make drastic changes in their lifestyles; because of his legitimacy and sincerity, they believed in him."
After nine seasons coaching Geneva's boys basketball team, a span which included five regional championships, two Little Seven titles and a record of 136-102, Barton resigned the position due to health issues, though he continued to teach and assist with the track team until his 1996 retirement.
Health concerns flared up again, suddenly and dramatically, when in 2009 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Drawing on the late North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano's own struggle with cancer two decades earlier and inspired by Valvano's memorable encouragement, "Don't give up ... Don't ever give up," Barton battled three more years before succumbing to the disease.
"He was quite a guy," Auchstetter said.
The coach said a committee of about 20 standup Geneva types and members of Barton's family has coalesced to produce the first John Barton Memorial Golf Outing, July 19 at Bliss Creek Golf Course in Sugar Grove.
Half of the proceeds of the event, which can handle 144 golfers and also nongolfers who would like to attend the post-round dinner, will go to the Jimmy V Cancer Research Foundation. The other half will be reserved for Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn and his 12-year-old son, Drew, diagnosed in March with anaplastic large-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
"He's one of our own," Auchstetter said.
The golf scramble costs $100 per person, which also includes the cart fee and steak dinner to follow. Dinner alone is $40.
The committee also seeks hole sponsors and gifts to raffle off. Those interested can pick up registration and information either at the office of Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer, or email Jerry Auchstetter at email@example.com.
"He was a very positive-thinking person. He didn't get down on people, he brought them up," Auchstetter said, remembering his friend, and that's another of the goals of the John Barton Memorial Golf Outing.
"We want it to be one big, happy reunion for the memory of John," Auchstetter said.
Speaking of golf outings
Spots still remain for the fifth annual golf outing to support Kaneland boys basketball. On June 7 they'll warm up Bliss Creek for the Barton Memorial, with dinner and a silent auction to follow.
The $400 cost for a foursome, $40 for dinner alone, raises funds for Knights uniforms, equipment, summer leagues and shootouts.
For details and registration, email Kaneland boys basketball coach Brian Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Track is a possibility, as is a walk-on spot in men's basketball for Aurora Christian senior Johnathan Harrell at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He'll go to a "point guard school" to work on the latter.
Harrell's rhyme and flow need little schooling, however, and he's also applied to UNC-Greensboro for a poetry scholarship.
During last week's Suburban Christian Conference boys track meet at Aurora Central Catholic, Harrell held a circle of six adults rapt with his impromptu reading from the notebook he carried. Later in the infield, upon request and off the top of his head Harrell recited an uplifting poem he'd composed as smiling teammate Josh Shien stood by.
Tough it out
It's a little late notice, but Marmion Academy will host the Heroes Mud Run on the morning of Saturday, May 24. Cost is $70 on race day, so at this point it's best to get there at least an hour early to register and pick up a race packet at the registration tent near the Regole Field House. The early arrival also nets an opportunity to witness special guest Jim Cornelison, of Blackhawks tenor fame, belt out the national anthem at 8:30 a.m. The first wave of runners goes off at 9 a.m.
Those who like to push their endurance to the limits will find the Mud Run to their liking. It's a 5-kilometer course packed with 17 different military-style obstacles ... and lots of mud.
A portion of the proceeds benefits the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. For details, start by visiting email@example.com
Ends with a bang
Following up on last week's item about the Crosstown Classic lacrosse game between St. Charles East and St. Charles North, while the weather took a toll on accompanying events the final game lived up to its billing.
Friday's rains rendered grounds unplayable for the "Rock the Fox" freshman-sophomore tournament as well as the May Classic youth lacrosse hoo-hah. The Classic itself was moved from Friday night at St. Charles East's Norris Stadium to -- horrors! -- the forgiving turf of Geneva's Burgess Field on Saturday afternoon. Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer generously granted the facility.
Once past all that stormy disappointment, the boys settled into an outstanding contest.
Both St. Charles East and St. Charles North held 5-goal leads at one point. East's Brett Hickey scored with 7 seconds left in the first half for a 9-4 Saints lead. In the second half St. Charles North's Jud Huxtable's fourth goal, and his team's 10th straight, gave the North Stars a 14-9 lead with 7:32 to play.
St. Charles East sucked it up and rallied for 4 goals, Jack Russell scoring his fifth of the game with just 40 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 14-13. St. Charles North goaltender Carter O'Brien stopped a point-blank shot in the last 15 seconds, and St. Charles North improved to 3-0 in the Classic.
Pluck of the Irish
On May 1 we wrote that St. Francis sophomore Shea Mahoney, by virtue of winning floor and all-around routines at a USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics regional, would compete at the National Championships in May 7-11.
It was 7s and 11s for Mahoney at the big meet in Jackson, Mississippi. The sophomore, a University of Alabama recruit, won bronze medals on floor and beam and took sixth in vault, helping her team win a national title.
Mahoney's combined regional and national finishes earned her a spot on the Region 5 All-Star team, among 12 gymnasts representing Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. St. Francis administrative assistant Megan Jamen reported the all-stars will represent USA Gymnastics on a trip to the Dominican Republic in July.